“Good fences make good neighbours, but what about bad ones?”

by Richard on April 2, 2013

I’ve just finished reading Mark Thomas’ Extreme Rambling, a fascinating and funny account of the comedian’s attempt to walk the route of Israel’s security barrier. It isn’t a book that is likely to appeal to any of Israel’s apologists, though his route took in both sides of the fence and the effects of terrorism are acknowledged from the first. By its nature, this is an anecdotal account rather than a rigorous political analysis but in the end the stories of individuals and families matter more than grand political narratives.

I’ve not been in the habit of posting book reviews, and I’m not intending to start now. Thomas concludes that while the usual rationale given for the barrier is security, “This barrier of wire and concrete is a blunt instrument of complex desires but, unfold them, and this wall, this fence, this military barrier, is the continuation of the conflict in concrete and wire form. It imposes a de facto border, creating a one-sided ’solution’ achieved not through negotiation but through subjugation. It claims security but grabs land, which settlers then build upon. It is no mere protective shield but a military entity which … has the added intent of destroying a possible Palestinian state.”

This is not a book that will convince a Zionist. (I doubt such a book exists) But if you want to understand something of the barrier’s effects on those who live in its shadow, this would not be a bad place to start.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


Mark Byron 04.03.13 at 1:04 pm

This reminds me of microhistory, where they look at how life was lived by average folks rather than following the movers and shakers; microhistory tends to capture social ills much more strongly than a big-picture approach.

This is essentially the present-tense version of that. Big walls of concrete tend to disrupt things, whether it’s an expressway in Chicago or a “security” wall in the West Bank.


Avraham Reiss 04.03.13 at 2:41 pm

I have not read the book, and have no intention of doing so. But from Richard’s summary it sounds both one-sided and Christian in its approach - a Christian approach to the Middle East being hardly relevant.

One-sided, because the reason for the wall’s existence - scores of Israelis murdered by Arab suicide-bombers - is passed off with the neutral-sounding word ’security’. The simple fact is, that since the wall was built, the phenomenon of brain-washed Arab suicide-bombers has ceased completely.

Christian in approach, because if I slap you, Richard, in the face, you are supposed to turn the other cheek and offer me the other cheek. We Israelis - and Jews in general - adhere to the Talmudic injunction: “he who comes to kill you, arise and kill him first” - with us, you don’t even get the first slap!

“… the added intent of destroying a possible Palestinian state…” - that is certainly not the declared intention - it is in fact a stupid remark which displays the author’s total ignorance of the geography of the area, because the wall protects areas that are populated by Israelis, areas that will in no way become part of a “Palestinian (sic) state (sic)”.

But in all honesty, I hope and pray that such a “state” will not come into existence. If it should, then as prophecied by the prophet Joel, Chapter 3 verse 2:

“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, AND PARTED MY LAND”.

And Richard, I again raise the subject of your obsession with Israel.


Daphne Anson 04.03.13 at 4:39 pm

Oh dear, Richard! You use the tern Zionist as if it were one of reproach. Zionism is, as I’m sure Israel’s “apologists” have told you before, is the national liberation movement of the Jewish People. The Wall isn’t the prettiest of sights, but it is there for security, and so far has done a good job of keeping suicide bombers and other homicidal miscreants bent on harming Israeli civilians out.
Yes, Mark, big walls made of concrete do get in the way rather, but this one is for much of its length a “fence”. When the Palestinian Arabs decide that they’d rather sit down and talk peace with the Israelis and a breakthrough is achieved then a proper border will be possible.
It’s funny (funny peculiar, not funny haha) that this security barrier that da Joos put up is denounced routinely, yet little or nothing is written or said about all the other “walls” around the world. I take the liberty of linking to an old blogpost of mine, in which I discuss this subject:


geoffff 04.03.13 at 5:08 pm

How many lives has this “barrier of wire and concrete” saved? Hundreds? Thousands? How many wars has it stopped?

You can tell it is doing its job by the loud low and incessant bleating of the “antizionists” who just itch for the good old days when antizionists weren’t afraid to call themselves what they are and Jews knew their place.

Three loud long cheers for the peace barrier.


Richard 04.03.13 at 6:37 pm

I haven’t come across the term ‘microhistory’ before Mark, but I can grasp its meaning and I do think it is an apt description of this book. In the end, it is the lives of the ‘average folk’ that matter most - that is what the ‘movers and shakers’ are supposed to be protecting. It isn’t true that the barrier merely surrounds areas populated by ‘Israelis’. It cuts off farmers from their land and children from their schools. It is a hindrance to the long-term security of Israel because the daily indignities it inflicts can only be a breeding-ground for hatred.


Kim 04.03.13 at 10:25 pm

Of course the famous Frost poem “Mending Wall” doesn’t accept, rather it queries the old proverb “Good fences make good neighbors” — and finds it woefully wanting. The poem begins “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”, and the narrator goes on to describe his proverb-quoting neighbour thus:

… I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

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